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Being All Things to All Men

In 1 Corinthians 9 and 10, Paul makes a few amazing statements about himself and then says that we are to follow his example.

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1)

Let me repeat a line out of each of the above paragraphs. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” and “even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many so that they may be saved.”

Let me encourage you to follow Paul’s example. It is a big order: all things, all men, all means, everybody, every way, all for their salvation.

Same Page Summer Bible Reading
Written June 1983.


Elisabeth said… struck me that being all things to all men...much to think about . .so how do you become weak if you are mature to win some to it comes down to practical application of christianity...learning how not to use your Christian experience in a bubble world....much to think convicted me very much, because . ...I'm way too self absorbed...
James I Wilson said…

You say it struck you that being all things to all men is much to think about. Well, let’s break it down. “All things to all men” means you take any one person and identify with that one person—first by loving that person, and second by not speaking to them from across the river. When you are a Christian and they are not, it is like they’re on the other side of a river, and you need to get them across to the salvation side. It doesn’t work to shout at them saying, “Come on in; the water’s fine,” from across what looks to them like a raging torrent of dangerous water. You go to where they are. You stand by them and say, “Let’s go across the river together.” Love the person; get next to the person.

How do you become weak if you are mature? You become weak by choosing to identify with the weak person. That doesn’t mean you lose your maturity. You use your love to identify with them. In other words, you don’t say, “You’re weak, and I’m strong, so I’m going to show you how to do it.” No. You become weak by a simple decision to identify with them so they’re not looking up to you like you’re someone far above them, and they can’t attain to your status. Instead of them becoming like you, you have to become like them. You do this by choice.

This doesn’t mean you become profane or immoral. It means getting close to them and loving them. It will take strength to do this. Otherwise, you’d be flaunting your strength and their weakness, and you don’t want to do that. That will not get them out of their weakness.

How to do this? The best way is to love the person in such a way that that person knows that you love them. When a person is loved, he returns it. His defenses go down. He listens to you because you love him. In other words, there is not a big distance between you in his viewpoint. He realizes that you are right next to him.

You say that you are too self-absorbed. So practice choosing to think of other people, even random people you meet on the street and don’t speak to. Choose to love that person, even if you don’t wind up having an opportunity to express it. Still make that choice, so that if you do meet that person, you have already made the choice; you already love them.

I hope this makes some sense.

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